NYFF Unveils Special Events, 30th Anniversary of ‘This Is Spinal Tap,’ and More


Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap.

The 30th Anniversary Screening of This Is Spinal Tap, the selection of Film Comment Presents, Special Screenings, and more for the 52nd New York Film Festival were announced yesterday.

Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap is celebrating its 30th milestone year. The classic was praised by the late Roger Ebert as "one of the funniest, most intelligent, most original films of the year." Writer/star Christopher Guest will be in attendance for what will surely be another evening filled with memories and laughter. Previous editions of NYFF welcomed the director and cast for the 10th Anniversary of The Royal Tenenbaums, the 25th Anniversary of The Princess Bride, and, last year, the 20th Anniversary of Dazed and Confused. Reiner was the recipient of the Film Society's Chaplin Award this past spring.

"This was the first movie that came to mind for all of us," said NYFF Director and Selection Committee Chair Kent Jones about the selection committee's choice of Reiner's 1984 feature. "I was writing about This Is Spinal Tap the other day and I was thinking at the time, 'How many other movies have been injected into the bloodstream of popular culture?' I remember when it came out, [I went with a friend] to a screening of [the film] and I remember just sitting there and falling out of my chair I was laughing so hard. I also remember there was a lot of feverish activity to get the Director's Cut five or so years after that."

The U.S. debut of Arnaud Desplechin’s The Forest, preceded by Claire Denis’s short film Voila l’enchainement ,will play as a Special Screening in NYFF's Special Events section. Desplechin’s adaptation of the Comédie Française production of Alexander Ostrovsky’s 1871 comic drama is both a "vibrantly spontaneous and brutally funny family drama, and a glorious tribute to acting and theater," according to the Film Society. The Forest will be paired with Denis’s new short, starring Denis regular Alex Descas and theater actress Norah Krief, written by novelist and playwright Christine Angot, and shot by Denis’s creative partner Agnès Godard.

"Arnaud Desplechin and I are friends. We worked together on Jimmy P.," Jones told FilmLinc. "Jimmy was a big American shoot and [afterward] Desplechin told me he was doing a short shoot with the Comédie Française actors for Arte and it's going to be very quick and that he was very much looking forward to it. He said it's a small film. I saw it and I thought it was beautiful." Jones said that the film is made on a smaller scale and is paired well with Denis's Voila l’enchainement, adding, "These are both small films by big directors."

Also joining Special Presentations is The King and the Mockingbird, described as a "masterwork of traditional hand-drawn cel animation" by director Paul Grimault and screenwriter Jacques Prévert (also a U.S. premiere). Inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story, the influential film has been cited by celebrated Japanese animators Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata as the inspiration for their own studio, the now world-famous Studio Ghibl, and has inspired a host of other animators, including Brad Bird. The satirical Mockingbird "was a labor of love for both Grimault, one of France’s most renowned animators, and legendary poet/screenwriter Prévert (Children of Paradise, Port of Shadows, Le Jour se Lève)," noted the Film Society Tuesday. They spent 30 years to finance and complete it. The King and the Mockingbird will open theatrically on November 21 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Filmmaker Bruno Dumont makes a departure of sorts with his latest film, Li'l Quinquin. Another NYFF Special Presentation, the Cannes title will have its U.S. premiere at the festival, which opens September 26. A four-part miniseries, the film is a metaphysical murder mystery that will recall stateside series Twin Peaks and True Detective.

"The Bruno Dumont film was a big surprise because it's funny," observed Jones. "You tell me the last Bruno Dumont movie that was funny that you saw. Not only do you not expect that from him but you don't even think it's within the realm of possibility—and suddenly here he's made this film that is very funny. It is still in keeping with much of his other work, but it's a miniseries, so it's more episodic than his other work, so it's different than you might expect."

Also on tap is the second annual Film Comment Presents selection for the New York Film Festival. This year's feature is John Boorman’s Queen and Country with the filmmaker in attendance. The follow-up to his autobiographical World War II childhood memoir Hope and Glory (NYFF ’87), Queen and Country "details the bittersweet rites of passage of the earlier film’s protagonist Bill (Callum Turner), now grown and called up for National Service in the British Army." Last year’s selection 12 Years a Slave launched this section of NYFF.

[Tickets for the upcoming New York Film Festival range in price from $15 & $25 for most screenings to $50 & $100 for Gala evenings. Film Society members receive a discount on tickets as well as the benefit of a pre-sale opportunity. Please note: All sales are final. No refunds or exchanges. Tickets are subject to availability. Programs and prices are subject to change. For NYFF Free events: Starting one hour before the scheduled time of the event, complimentary tickets will be distributed from the box office corresponding to the event's venue. Limit one ticket per person, on a space available basis. Please note that the line for tickets may form in advance of the time of distribution. Visit Filmlinc.com for more information. The updated NYFF App is available for download on iOS and Android.]

Anniversary Screening film & description:

This Is Spinal Tap
Rob Reiner, USA, 1984, DCP, 82m

How many times in the last 30 years have you been lost in the corridors of a strange building and muttered the words “Rock and roll…”? Or listened to your friend’s new sound system and countered that yours “goes to 11”? Or sung the immortal verses “My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo / I’d like to sink her with my pink torpedo”? Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer’s movie struck like a bolt from the blue in 1984, and instantly established a new high-water mark in comedy. We’re excited to be celebrating three decades of Spinal Tap with this special anniversary screening, and equally excited to be joined by Nigel Tufnel himself, Christopher Guest. Tap into America, so say we all! A Rialto Pictures Release.

Film Comment Presents: Queen And Country film & description:

Queen and Country
John Boorman, UK, 2014, DCP, 114m

A delightful follow-up to John Boorman’s autobiographical World War II childhood memoir Hope and Glory (NYFF ’87), Queen and Country, set in the early 1950s, details the bittersweet rites of passage of the earlier film’s protagonist Bill (Callum Turner), now grown and called up for National Service in the British Army. Instead of being shipped off to Korea, Boorman’s stand-in lands a desk job as a typing instructor, a cushy post but for a military-regulation-fixated Sergeant Major (David Thewlis in top form) who makes life miserable for Bill and his two office mates in an escalating grudge match. Running parallel to this seemingly light service comedy is Bill’s romantic pursuit of an alluring but emotionally troubled Oxford student (Tamsin Egerton) who’s out of his league. A deeply felt film, this loving re-creation of postwar England, fully aware of the still-damaging strictures of the country’s obsolete yet enduring class system despite intimations of a country on the cusp of a new era, is imbued with an unabashed and sincere nostalgia and gentle sense of loss.

Special Screenings films & descriptions:

The Forest / La Forêt (U.S. Premiere)
Arnaud Desplechin, France, 2014, DCP, 82m
French with English subtitles

The name of Alexander Ostrovsky may not be as well known in the west as Anton Chekhov’s, but he was far more prolific a playwright, and many of his works are the backbone of his country’s theatrical tradition. The Comédie Française incorporated The Forest, his 1871 comic drama (we would now call it Chekhovian, but Ostrovsky died when Chekhov was just getting started) about the familial intrigues between a scheming middle-aged woman, her marriageable niece, and an itinerant nephew who returns from self-imposed family exile, into its repertoire in 2003. Arnaud Desplechin’s version, created for Arte’s “Theatre” series, prunes the production down to a trim 82 minutes. The Forest is both a vibrantly spontaneous and brutally funny family drama, and a glorious tribute to acting and theater—in other words, an Arnaud Desplechin film. With Michel Vuillermoz and Denis Podalydès as the nephew and his friend, Adeline D’Hermy as the niece, and Martine Chevallier in a stunning performance as the sublimely selfish aunt Raissa.
Preceded by:
Voilà l’enchaînement (U.S. Premiere)
Claire Denis, France, 2014, DCP, 30m
French with English subtitles

Claire Denis’s formidable new short film, shot during her time as a visiting professor at Le Fresnoy, is cinema at its most fundamental: a man and a woman seen only within the charged space of their own coupling. Longtime Denis collaborator Alex Descas and theater actress Norah Krief are the mixed-race couple who come together and then violently apart. The text is by the novelist and playwright Christine Angot, the images shot by Denis’s creative partner Agnès Godard.

The King and the Mockingbird
Paul Grimault, France, 1952/1980, DCP, 82m

The legendary animator Paul Grimault (who had a profound and lasting influence on Hayao Miyazaki) and the writer Jacques Prévert collaborated for the second time in 1948 on an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep.” In 1950, Grimault’s partner André Sarrut took control of the film, and he released a truncated version in 1952. Grimault spent the next 15 years retrieving the rights to the material, and the decade after looking for financing to complete the project. Grimault and Prévert’s delightful film, finished in 1980, incorporates two-thirds of the original animation into a whole new film, at once a delightful adventure story for children, a devilish political satire for adults, and a handcrafted work of tremendous beauty for all. This is the North American premiere of Studiocanal’s recent digital restoration. A Rialto Pictures release.

Li’l Quinquin (U.S. Premiere)
Bruno Dumont, France, 2014, DCP, 200m
French with English subtitles

And now for something completely different… an epic farce from Bruno Dumont! An update of his 1999 Cannes Grand Prix winner L’humanité as a four-part miniseries, this absurdist metaphysical murder mystery prompts inevitable comparisons to Twin Peaks and True Detective. In its own right, Li’l Quinquin—which begins with the discovery of human body parts stuffed inside a cow, a literal bête humaine—serves to recast the director’s moral and theological obsessions in a tender, tragicomic reg-ister. Featuring Bernard Pruvost as the Clouseau-like detective on the case and charismatic young Alane Delhaye as the title prankster, Li’l Quinquin is proof that even an auteur like Dumont, best known for uncompromising and austere dramas, is capable of shifting gears without conceding his signature. A Kino Lorber release.